Thursday, April 2, 2009

Customer Service in a Web World

Recently I bought a few pendants from an Etsy seller. I loved them. One was a barn owl, another some purty wildflowers, and the third was a vintage encyclopedia-looking octopus.
But the octopus was too dark in color for the recipient. Then my beloved barn owl broke because I made the mistake of wearing it in the shower.

I sent a very sweet (yep, from me) e-mail to the seller:

Hi there,
I purchased 3 lovely pendants from you about 2 months ago. One has broken (because I wore it in the shower, thinking I was wearing a diff necklace). I understand if you're not willing to replace it b/c of my mistake. I just recently gave the octopus as a gift, and the recipient thought it was too dark in color. I was wondering if I might replace that one? I of course would love to replace both that and the broken one, butI understand if that is not possible.
Cate Nelson

To which I received this puzzling reply:

Dear Catherine,
If you had received the wrong pendant or the pendant was broken when it arrived to you I would have replaced your pendants - but due to the pendant being worn into the water - and it is stated in my shop they are not waterproof - and because your friend does not care for something you give as a gift - I am unable to replace pendants.

Wait, what? When I received the package in the first place, this seller asked that I contact her directly with any problems before leaving seller feedback. That's what I did, right? I followed directions and used kind words! Why wasn't I getting my way?! (I'm sure Lucian would be just as puzzled as I was.)

I wasn't looking for a freebie, just an exchange for the octopus. I would even ship it back with my own money; no prob, Bob.
Next step? I left seller feedback. Nothing nasty, though I have a special "flair" for words when I'm upset. (Ask Mark.) I simply checked the "Negative" box and said, "Seller would not allow me to exchange this after recipient said it was too dark."

You'd think in this day and age, people--especially those who provide a service--would be wary of pissing customers off. All it takes, then, is a blog or a Tweet or a FB status change, and bad publicity spreads by word of type.
And when companies mess with me, I fear they should watch out. Last time HughesNet screwed up my service, I joined a class action lawsuit against them in a few clicks of the mouse. It's a different world than it used to be, folks.

Almost immediately, the seller received my less-than-stellar review and shot me this e-mail after having refunded my entire purchase through PayPal:

Dear Cate,
I have sent you a full refund in the amount of $18.25 Please email me with the name of the pendant that needs to be replaced and which pendant do you want for a replacement of "vintage octopus"? You do not need to return any of the pendants but I would really appreciate it if you would please click on the links I sent to you via Etsy called 'kiss & makeup" which allows you to have a change of heart and change your feedback from what you left for me to positive. I hope you will find it in your heart to do so.

Well! Certainly wasn't expecting a bunch of freebies! And wouldn't want it; this is a crafter who makes her own wares.
We did kiss and make up. But it was the initial slobbering that left me wondering about the entire experience.

I heart Etsy. It's a great way for those with WAY more talent than I to hock their wares and make some cash. Heck, if my wonderful sister Amy will hop on and post new pics, I'm sure she'll rock that site out.

But whether it's handmade or mass produced, don't service providers know this is the brave new world of social networking?

Image: dramafreezone on Flickr.

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